TOP BILLIONAIRE ART COLLECTORS
Top Billionaire Art Collectors
Keren Blankfeld, Cristina von Zeppelin and Susan Adams,07.24.09, 10:00 AM EDT for Forbes.com
Despite one of the worst art market slumps in years, these individuals all have collections worth $700 million or more.
Suffering from one of its worst years in recent memory, the art world got a boost in June when French billionaire François Pinault opened his new modern art museum, the Punta della Dogana, in Venice’s former customs house at the entrance of the Grand Canal. In what some called the “Dogana effect,” the opening was also seen as having helped boost attendance at Art Basel, the respected contemporary art fair in Switzerland later that month. While sales for the toned-down fair are hard to come by, a record crowd of 61,000, including billionaires Mitchell Rales, Eli Broad and Roman Abramovich showed up at the event.
Wealthy patrons and collectors have been the lifeblood of the art world for centuries, from Italy’s Medici family to American industrialists Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Mellon. That is still true today even as art valuations drop. Indeed, in a downturn like this one, billionaires are some of the only people who can still afford to buy expensive art or help prop up museums.
Broad, for instance, spent $30 million in December bailing out the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art to prevent the museum from having to sell off artwork and leave its current headquarters. Several months earlier, Estée Lauder Chairman Leonard Lauder gifted $131 million to New York City’s Whitney Museum, of which he is chairman emeritus, in part to help it keep its Upper East Side location. (See “Most Powerful Billionaire Boards.”)
Art is a passion for these billionaires, but it is also a valuable asset. So how did their personal collections hold up in the past year, and who among the rarefied rich owns the most valuable works?